From The Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):
A water-sharing agreement between Colorado Springs Utilities and an Arkansas Valley water management group would give that city access to an additional 2,100 acre feet of Arkansas River water a year — an agreement that concerns some regional water users.
That would be in addition to the 50 million gallons of Arkansas River water that Colorado Springs gets each day through the Southern Delivery Service pipeline from Lake Pueblo.
“The deal means another 7,500 shares of water will be leaving Bent County in the future,” argued Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservation District. “And that’s a step toward drying up that county.”
According to news reports, what Colorado Springs has done is buy 2,500 shares of water from Arkansas River Farms, a Littleton-based agriculture company. That purchase makes it a member of the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association.
That’s a nonprofit group of Arkansas River water users. Essentially, it has the job of seeing that water pumped up from groundwater wells is replaced into the river.
The deal that Colorado Springs wants approved calls for a shared use of its 2,500 shares of water between the management group and the city. Over a 10-year-period, the city would have the use of that water for five years, with the management group getting it the other five years.
City officials have said the shared-use plan would help guarantee Colorado Springs has additional water supplies in drought years.
A spokesman for the water management group said the deal would require Colorado Springs to pay for additional storage near Lamar for those years when the city is using the water.
Officials with Colorado Springs Utilities have fended off complaints that this might dry up areas in the Arkansas Valley by noting that the water management group would share authority over the water.
Winner said it is likely his organization, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservation District, will intervene when the question comes before a state water court for approval. That is likely to be a few years away, he acknowledged.
The next step for the water-sharing plan is to get the approval of the Fort Lyon Canal Co. The water management group has been buying water from that company for its augmentation program and Fort Lyon currently doesn’t allow its water to be routed to cities.
The second step is to get approval from the state water court, which will review any deal to ensure that no other water rights are damaged.